Thursday, November 22, 2007

Better than you'd expect

What you see to the left is an olive, peanut-butter, mayonnaise sandwich. And it's really good. Honestly.

I know, I was skeptical too and it took me weeks to work up the courage to try it. There's some odd background before I get to the odd sandwich. Last year, Gourmet Magazine was involved in a 20-part documentary series called Diary of a Foodie. Each episode focused on a foodie topic--eating locally, the transformative power of mold, the blossoming food culture in Brazil, etc. The episodes were mainly stories in the field, but each would come back to a kitchen studio once or twice where Gourmet's editorial staff would prepare quick recipes exemplifying the episode's theme.

The episode about under-valued ingredients included a recipe for caramel corn that, personally, I consider oversimplified to be any good and a recipe for this sandwich. Don't bother going to the show's website to find it, though, the whole episode has fallen down the memory hole. The caramel corn recipe is now attached to the Anatomy of a Meal episode along with a caramelized pork rinds recipe that I'm sure I would have tried by now if it had actually aired.

I'm half convinced the sandwich was a cruel hoax. After demonstrating the preparation, Ruth Reichl, Gourmet's Editor in Chief, took a bite and laughed "That's some sandwich!" which is not the strong endorsement one would like. Frankly, I'd suspect I confabulated the whole thing if Google didn't turn up one (count'em) reference to it on the Web. I'm still not entirely convinced that it wasn't a trick that I (and the person who posted the recipe to recipezaar) have fallen for.

So, the sandwich itself. The vinegary brine of the olives are up front, of course, but they're framed by the creaminess of the mayo and grounded in the earthiness of the peanut butter. It's complex and surprisingly well balanced. (although today's version is thrown off a bit by strong flavors of the multigrain bread. It works better with a country white that serves more as a canvas than an ingredient.) If you do try it, use the large good quality green olives from the gourmet grocery's olive bar and smooth natural peanut butter without the added sugar of the big brands. Not a lot to say about the choice of mayo. I'd avoid Miracle Whip, but that's more of a general rule of thumb.

Finally, I'd like to again emphasize that I'm not making this up.

No comments: